Definers Public Affairs

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Definers Public Affairs is a US lobbying firm founded by Republican senator Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign manager, Matt Rhoades and former Republican National Committee research director Joe Pounder.

Pounder has been described as 'one of the most powerful people in Washington, D.C. for his ability to influence the national news cycle' and as a 'master of opposition research'.[1]

It is based in Washington but also opened up in Silicon Valley in 2017 targeting the tech sector. Tim Miller of Definers said that the Valley’s biggest brands should invest more to ensure 'you have positive content pushed out about your company and negative content that’s being pushed out about your competitor, or regulator, or activist groups or activist investors, that are challenging you.'[2]

UK expansion in time for Brexit

In July 2017 Definers announced its expansion into London, launching the firm the UK Policy Group.

The firm was established in January 2017 and was originally called 'UK Rising' (see 'America Rising' below). Its directors are Joe Pounder and Matt Rhoades.

It appointed Andrew Goodfellow, a former director of research for the Conservative Party, as its vice president.

The UK Policy Group will help corporate clients with campaign-style research, media monitoring, opinion research, and communications strategy advice' according to a press release.[3]

It was launched in partnership with Trygve Olson, of Viking Strategies, who counselled the European People’s Party in the 2009 EU elections and worked as a consultant to the Republican Party in the U.S[3]

Law firm tie up

Definers has linked up with US law giant Dentons to provide a joint offering – '3D Global Affairs' – which, it says, 'allows clients to be the disruptor by combining political intelligence, legal advisors, campaign-style tactics, lobbying, governmental affairs, research, and communications into one unique offering'.[4]

Services they provide promise to 'disrupt The Political, Regulatory, And Communications Environment Over The Long-Term' for clients. Its services include: 'Legal Services'; 'Government Relations And Lobbying Support'; 'Communications And Rapid Response'; 'War Room Style Media Monitoring', which monitors a wide-range of media platforms on a continuous basis; and 'Campaign Style Opposition Research', which, it says provides clients with 'dossiers on opponents, competitors and agitators'.[5]

America Rising: an 'opposition research factory'

Definers partners Matt Rhoades founded America Rising, a political action committee, or PAC that, according to reports in Mother Jones and the New York Times 'specialises in helping [Republican] party candidates and conservative groups find damaging information on political rivals'.[6][7]

Definers and America Rising share several top executives. As well as Rhoades, Joe Pounder is its president and Definers vice president Allan L. Blutstein has also worked with America Rising.

Targeting environmental opponents

In December 2017, the New York Times reported that Definers vice president Allan L. Blutstein had prepared a series of Freedom of Information requests targeting employees of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who had questioned the way the agency was being run. According to Eric Lipton's report in the New York Times:[8]

'One Environmental Protection Agency employee spoke up at a private lunch held near the agency headquarters, saying she feared the nation might be headed toward an “environmental catastrophe.” Another staff member, from Seattle, sent a letter to Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, raising similar concerns about the direction of the agency. A third, from Philadelphia, went to a rally where he protested against agency budget cuts.
Three different agency employees, in different jobs, from three different cities, but each encountered a similar outcome: Federal records show that within a matter of days, requests were submitted for copies of emails written by them that mentioned either Mr. Pruitt or President Trump, or any communication with Democrats in Congress that might have been critical of the agency.'

The article quotes one EPA employee, whose emails were targeted after he took part in a union protest against budget cuts at the agency, who called the tactics a 'witch hunt against E.P.A. employees who are only trying to protect human health and the environment.'

Definers was then hired by the EPA to provide a 'media monitoring' service, raising further fears. One EPA lawyer who helped lead a series of enforcement actions against major air polluters in the Midwest, and whose emails also were requested through a Freedom of Information request, said the EPA's decision to hire Definers caused great concern. “Now that [Definers] are working for the agency, will they have access to agency computers and perhaps try to come after me in a whole bunch of different ways?... It is very scary. Very, very scary.”[9] Definers reportedly ended the contract after two senators expressed concern about the award and nature of the work. [10]

According to the NYT article, Blutstein also has sought emails and other information from at least two climate scientists, Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University and Robert Kopp of Rutgers University. In addition, the nonprofit arm of America Rising, known as America Rising Squared, used “trackers” to videotape activists like Bill McKibben, founder of, and Tom Steyer, the billionaire investor and Democratic donor. Definers would not say who paid for the surveillance. Brian Rogers, executive director of America Rising Squared and a senior vice president at Definers said: 'America Rising Squared is committed to ensuring a balanced debate, and providing a conservative perspective on the issues and actors involved.'[11]


  • Facebook. According to Politico, Facebook hired Definers Public Affairs in 2017 to help it 'navigate' the investigation by US lawmakers into Russian influence in the 2016 US election that saw Donald Trump become President.[12]


  • Website:
  • Address: 1500 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22209


  1. Joe Pounder profile, Definers website, accessed Feb 2018
  2. Republican political operatives want to sell the dark arts of opposition research to tech companies, Recode, 7 June 2017
  3. 3.0 3.1 Romney-linked lobbying firm to open London branch, Politico, 10 July 2017
  4. 3D Global Affairs, Definers website, accessed Feb 2018
  5. 3D Global Affairs, Definers website, accessed Feb 2018
  6. Eric Lipton, E.P.A. Employees Spoke Out. Then Came Scrutiny of Their Email, New York Times, 17 Dec 2017
  7. The EPA Hired a Major Republican Opposition Research Firm to Track Press Activity, Mother Jones, 15 Dec 2017
  8. Eric Lipton, E.P.A. Employees Spoke Out. Then Came Scrutiny of Their Email, New York Times, 17 Dec 2017
  9. Eric Lipton, E.P.A. Employees Spoke Out. Then Came Scrutiny of Their Email, New York Times, 17 Dec 2017
  10. Definers Cuts ties, PR Week, 20 Dec 2017
  11. Eric Lipton, E.P.A. Employees Spoke Out. Then Came Scrutiny of Their Email, New York Times, 17 Dec 2017
  12. Facebook struggles to contain Russia narrative, Politico, 29 October 2017